Notebook: Receivers Take Blocking Seriously

The Vikings' wide receivers continue to show up on film as some of the best blocking receivers in the league, according to them and their teammates. See how that has translated on the field and how they feel about blocking at the expense of more opportunities in the passing game. Plus, find out which former Viking is back with the Giants and get Friday's injury report.

Whether it is Adrian Peterson breaking off three touchdown runs of more than 30 yards in a single game or Chester Taylor trying to hit top speed on his way to an explosive gain, the second level of the Vikings' blocking can be seen in action on numerous running plays.

The blocking efforts of the wide receivers aren't going unnoticed by the offensive line either.

"I don't know if I've ever been on a team where the wide receivers block so well and so aggressively down the field. They're not just trying to cover guys up, they're going after guys," center Matt Birk said earlier this week. "Everybody is on board with it. Everybody is buying in and nobody is taking a play off. That's a big reason why at times the running game looked pretty good."

The running game has looked more than just "pretty good," it's been the best rushing attack in the league after 10 games, and the wide receivers' blocking can't go without getting credit.

"We kind of set the tempo early with our group about what kind of group we were going to be. We wanted to be a physical group," receiver Bobby Wade said. "The improvements from last year, obviously we wanted to catch the ball better and be physical in the run game. That's where it started, and then the ability to see these guys finish runs, you cover these guys up in the secondary, you're going to have an opportunity to be involved in this run game, which receivers really normally don't. It's nice when they get into the back end."

Getting a run of 15 yards or more has occurred an average of more than twice a game. Not surprisingly, rookie running back Adrian Peterson has 17 of those 22 explosive rushes and owns the top-five longest rushes of the season for the Vikings.

Rookie wide receiver Aundrae Allison said he's never been on a team that works so hard with their wide receivers to improve their blocking skills.

"It's just one of those things, blocking is an attitude-type thing. You've just got to have your attitude and your mind right and be willing to do the little things," he said. "You work more on it with this team. Once you put on the game film, you can see the difference in our receivers and you can see the difference in other receivers. A lot of the guys in the league, they go off our receiver tapes. Their coaches emphasize them to block like us. We're just the best at it right now and it's paying off big-time."

The Vikings lead the league in rushing yards per game and rushing average. Through 10 games, they have 1,551 yards on the ground and are averaging 5.8 yards per carry.

For a receiver like Wade, who signed with the Vikings in the offseason, being trained in the ways of a blocking wide receiver started with his first team in his still-young professional career.

"Chicago was really big. My first year in the league, we were really adamant about blocking. Todd Haley was my receiver coach at the time and we were really big about being physical and obviously we were a big run team then too. I kind of got used to it then," Wade said. "I think this year we really elevated our game as far as trying to block downfield. It's fun blocking for guys like Adrian and Chester, who are excited to finish plays and have the ability to do it."

While the wide receivers have been willing blockers and even occasionally getting excited about doing it – witness Robert Ferguson high-stepping off the field after a long touchdown run by one of the running backs – it's still a difficult mentality for a wide receivers to have.

Ferguson said a couple weeks ago that the lack of a 100-yard receiver this season has been discussed in the wide receivers' positional meeting room. Still, after 10 games, the team hasn't had a 100-yard receiver, as tight end Visanthe Shiancoe has been the closest they've come with 94 yards on two catches last Sunday against the Raiders.

"It's tough, but when you're able to win games like that, it makes the game go faster," Wade said. "Obviously you don't have so many opportunities, but it gives you an opportunity to win the game. Every receiver wants to catch a lot of balls. I'm good with it. I've found a lot of joy in being able to block, knock guys down and those things, but it also opens up that pass game too."

Allison echoes Wade's final sentiments.

"Deep down inside I don't feel it's hard for a receiver to accept," the rookie said. "I just feel that every receiver wants to catch the ball. Just growing up watching the sport, I don't really think a lot of receivers put a lot of emphasis on blocking. They don't really understand the importance of blocking. You have to block to receive the ball because it opens up the passing game."

LOWBER RETURNS

You remember Todd Lowber, don't you? Hardcore fans who follow the team year-round know him as the former track star that the Vikings were trying to develop into a wide receiver. The Vikings released him on roster cutdowns on Aug. 28 and the Giants signed him to their practice squad, where he spent about two weeks before being released on Oct. 5.

Earlier this week, the Giants brought back the Vikings' offseason project when the Redskins signed WR Anthony Mix from the New York practice squad. Bobby Wade was among those that found humor in the timing of the Giants' move to bring back Lowber before the Giants played the Vikings.

"It's classic. You've seen it a million times. But the thing about it is you kind of want to sign a guy who really knew what was going on," Wade said. "Todd's a great guy, obviously a good-hearted person who works real hard, but I just don't know how much he understood as far as this offensive scheme, how we run things, our play calls. That's what they're trying to find out. We're not really too concerned about that."

SORE TIGHT END?

Former Giants tight end Shiancoe is close friends with a number of Giants defender, especially defensive ends Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan, whom Shiancoe spent lots of time blocking in Giants practices the last few years. But facing them on Sunday has brought a whole new level to their trash talk back and forth.

"It's fun trash. When we go against each other, nobody is going to let up. It's going to be for real. They're going to try to beat me; I'm going to try to beat them so I can give them a call later and talk a little trash to them," Shiancoe said.

He has especially heard a lot from the defensive ends and the safety Gibril Wilson, and they were apparently laying it on thick with Shiancoe over the phone lines and at a birthday party he attended for Strahan and Umenyiora on Monday in New York.

"What did Osi say? He said he's going to kick my ass. Gibril said he's going to kick my ass. Stra comes up to me and says, ‘Man, please don't tell me that I have to go up against my boy and I have to whip my boy's ass?'" Shiancoe recalled. "I said, ‘OK, that's what you think.' Everybody out there told me they were going to whup my ass, whup my ass, whup my ass. That's fine, though. I said, ‘Hey, do it.'"

FINAL INJURY REPORT

Cornerback Antoine Winfield (hamstring) is doubtful, safety Eric Frampton (groin) is probable, and fullback Tony Richardson (knee) as questionable. Running back Adrian Peterson was upgraded to questionable and participated fully in Friday's practice. By NFL definitions, questionable means a 50 percent chance of playing, and Childress acknowledged that there was some "fence-sitting" going on while the medical staff monitors Peterson's progress over the next 46 hours before game time. Peterson has been seeing a doctor every day after practice, but he hadn't yet received another MRI as of early afternoon Friday.

Matt Birk was not at Friday's practice because of a death, but he is listed as probable and Childress said he was expecting Birk back for Saturday's departure to New York. Guard Anthony Herrera and tackle Ryan Cook both got work at center in Birk's absence.

For the Giants, running back Brandon Jacobs (hamstring) and wide receiver Steve Smith (scapula/hamstring) have been ruled out. Running back Derrick Ward (ankle/groin) is doubtful. Wide receiver Plaxico Burress (ankle) is questionable and TE Mike Matthews (foot) and safety Gibril Wilson (knee) are probable. Burress, Smith and Jacobs were held out of Friday's practice, Ward took part on a limited basis, while Wilson and Matthews participated fully.

OTHER SIGHTINGS

  • The Redskins gave a tryout to offseason Vikings tight end Stephen Spach, who was also a former Philadelphia Eagle.

  • The Broncos released former Vikings practice squad offensive lineman Isaac Snell.


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